South America is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO awesome! Everyone should spend some time exploring this part of the world. Here you will find the remains of ancient civilisations, amazing wildlife, friendly people, tasty food and beautiful landscapes and sceneries including mountains, rainforests, coasts, deserts, lakes and plains. I spent 7 weeks travelling with my friend through Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. There were so many interesting places that we visited but the highlights for me were the Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, the museum and city at the Middle of the World (La Mitad del Mundo) and Cartagena. During my personal experience and speaking with other travellers it was obvious that being able to speak some Spanish was very useful, particularly when travelling on a tight budget as many hostel owners don’t speak much, if any, English. It also made getting around in taxis, asking for directions, enquiring about costs of tours and other things and ordering food easier (especially since I am vegetarian). Speaking Spanish made the trip more enjoyable and I really felt that I had left the shores of Australia and landed in a magical, foreign place. Thank you to VLLC for helping me learn Spanish for this trip. Please share my experience and photos on your website as I hope this will inspire others to visit this amazing and interesting continent. Now time to finish sorting through my photos and start planning my South America Part 2 adventures.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru. A 4 day hike starting from Cuzco. .
Swimming in the Amazon River, Iquitos, Peru whilst watching dolphins swim in the river nearby. Thankfully there were no piranhas out here in the middle of the river.
Doing a cruise in the Galapagos Islands will allow you to visit the uninhabited islands and see lots of these cute little fellas close up as well as many other animals including iguanas, giant sea turtles, giant tortoises and many species of birds. You can even go snorkelling with giant sea turtles, rays, sea lions and fish. If you are lucky you might even see a shy white-tipped reef shark.
Stand up paddle boarding at Isla Grande, Cartagena, Colombia. You will never complain of the water being too cold here.
I began part-time language studies with VLLC at the end of January 2014. In May, I decided to move my plans forward by 6 months and audition in January 2015. I commenced full-time German studies in June and completed my Certificate III in Foreign Language Studies assessments in early December, just in time for my departure to Germany on December 30th. I had applied to 5 music academies in Germany and my first audition was at my first preference university; the Detmold HfM (see picture above). What only needs to be said is that the audition process was daunting and conducted only in German. There were many applicants who did not pass the language test and were given 3 months to immerse themselves in German, and then resit the test with the result of being "de-matriculated" if they did not pass the second time. For my second audition, I was billeted in Berlin. A plaque located on the wall outside the apartment block in which I was staying noted that it had been Albert Einstein's residence in 1914, during his composition of the 'Theory of Relativity'. At this time I was notified of my acceptance into Detmold HfM and my success of passing all associated entrance examinations. I didn't continue with any other auditions because my dreams had come true and I made my way back to Detmold.
Having been a musician for many years, I know the importance of having elite tutors. Without finding a quality piano teacher and a certified language provider I wouldn't be a student (for the next 4 years) at the Detmold Hochschule für Musik. Joanne, Iris, Marion, Mali and all associated staff at the VLLC seriously understood the importance of my goal, tailored my programme and made the lessons enjoyable and pertinent. They are interested in my progress and continue to keep in touch. One of my tutors, Iris (who I had only ever met online) has since visited me in Detmold and it was my first contact with someone from home since I left in December. It was like a family member had come a calling.
I would highly recommend VLLC to anyone who wants to learn another language.
I began learning Russian with VLLC last year. My family was a big part of my decision to learn - It’s nice to see the smile my babooshka gets when I speak with her in her first language! I am also motivated to get to a fluency which will allow me to read and translate an old family journal, which we haven’t been able to understand because it is written in Russian! I am almost there - I practice with my family, my partner… even with people who don’t understand; I will say something in Russian then repeat it in English – so I get to practice saying all kinds of things every day! One language isn’t always enough – Russian is often more emotive than English, and speaking to someone in their own language allows you to get a lot more out of the conversation.
I have been sorting through some old files and I came across this poem that one of our past students wrote about her experience with VLLC. This was before VLLC online was available and students came to the centre to do their lessons. I thought I would share it... Michele
My name is Sue and I am married with 2 teenage children and live at Norton Summit in the Adelaide Hills. Why did I decide to learn Indonesian? I have been wanting to learn Indonesian after visiting Sumatra a couple of years ago and a number of times since. I am expecting to travel to Indonesia a few times a year on an ongoing basis and I want to be able to speak with the locals on their terms and to understand and participate in conversations with them.
A bit of background on what I do. It all started when I wanted to take my family on a bit of an adventure holiday to see the orangutans in Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra a couple of years ago. Something really special happened while I was over there, I fell in love with this beautiful country and its people. I came away just wanting to help them in any way I could and decided that the best way to do this was to help them with some new employment opportunities, by setting up a tour and trekking company with a number of local guides. The aim is to attract more visitors to this special part of the world, ensuring that the proceeds of these tours go back to the local people and communities. When I mentioned this idea to them, they became very excited about the creation of new employment opportunities in sustainable ecotourism, as an alternative to mining, land clearance and palm oil. They were wondering how I could help and I said that back in Australia I run an eco winery and guest houses, with my main role being websites, enquiries, bookings, marketing and promotion and I would be happy to help them in a volunteer role. Well they could not believe their luck because these were just skills they needed to make this idea become a reality. So Sumatra Adventure Holidays was born! I set about developing a website and Facebook page over a year ago and before I knew it the enquiries started rolling in from all over the world! As things progressed, I wanted to do even more for the local people, so I suggested Sumatra Adventure Holidays join the Pack for a Purpose Program, where visitors can give back to the local community by bringing supplies with them for the local schools when they go on a school visit. To date we are the only company to be involve in the program in Sumatra, but I hope a lot more will join this program because it is such a worthwhile thing to do.
While it is still early days, the local guides, businesses, guesthouses, the community and their families are so grateful to be actively involved in this new tourism venture and they are all hoping that it will be a huge success in the future and so do I. So if you are interested in minimal impact sustainable tourism in places a little off the beaten track and like the idea of tourism where all of the tour proceeds are reinvested in the local community, please consider Sumatra Adventure Holidays for your next holiday :). Please have a look at the amazing tours and treks we have developed on www.sumatraadventureholidays.com
I am also heading back to Sumatra in June and August, so if anyone has any donations they would like me to take over I will be more than happy to take them with me, such as school consumable supplies (the list is on the Pack for a Purpose website on the Sumatra Adventure Holidays page) and good condition clothing. I am also doing a technology drive for the guides and I am looking for donations of old smart phones, laptops, digital cameras and old iPods that people are no longer using) If you can help, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 08 83901995. If you are interested in volunteering with any of our environmental or other projects please go to our website www.selangpangeranvolunteer.wordpress.com .
We are excited to see VLLC French student, Andrew, off on his new adventure! Andrew has a one way ticket to France, where he plans to spend 3-5 years studying at a prestigious academy – he will perfect his trade, learning from stone-carving masters from all over France! He first heard about the opportunity 2 years ago, and it has been on his mind ever since! “I don’t want to regret not having an attempt,” he says, “it will be new experiences everyday while learning from the masters themselves!” Andrew looks forward to being able to converse with the locals using his French language skills, and encourages others to do the same - “Anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. The first obstacle was realising that learning a new language isn't as hard as first thought… new things are added to the brain every day that you tend to recall on a later date [and] learning a new language is more or less the same. All that is done while learning a new language is reinforcing what you already know..... and the teachers are pretty good at their job too ;)” Andrew is excited to start a new chapter of his life in France, and says the only thing keeping him from jumping on a plane straight away is the sale of his car… anyone in the market?
Marhaba, my name is Yasmin and I am the Arabic tutor at VLLC Melbourne. After five years of celebrating Ramadan on my own in Australia, I was so excited to spend it this year with my family in Egypt.
Every year millions of Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Fasting brings Muslims closer to God and reminds them of those who are less fortunate. It makes us very grateful for what we do have. By refraining from the worldly desires such as food and drink, Muslims develop and strengthen their powers of self-control and self-restraint so that they can then apply it to their everyday life to bring about self-improvement.
Although Ramadan may seem to be a hard and difficult month, it is, in fact, a very enjoyable time. Families come together and enjoy the delicious food for the breaking the fast and the pre-dawn meals. The shared experience of not eating or drinking all day unites Muslims both as a family and community in the Mosques where Muslims gather together to break their fast with other people also observing the fast that day.
Celebrating Ramadan in Egypt is a very special and unique event. Egypt has one of the oldest and richest Ramadan heritage in the whole Arab world, ranging from lights to cannons to night callers. Egyptians welcome Ramadan with the Fanoos or Ramadan lanterns. They decorate their homes with the colourful lanterns and children swing with their new glowing lanterns while singing Ramadan songs. Using the Fanoos as decorations is believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate. Egyptians welcomed the arrival of Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah to Cairo in 969 during the month of Ramadan by lighting hundreds of lanterns.
Another interesting tradition of Ramadan in Egypt is the firing of the cannon. The firing of the cannon marks sunrise and sunset therefore signalling the time for beginning and ending the fast. This tradition started during the time of Khedive Mohamed Ali (1805-1848) when he ordered a number of cannons for the Egyptian army, and so it happened that one cannon was accidentally fired during sunset in Ramadan and people then thought that this was a new tradition ordered by the Khedive.
Finally, one of Ramadan’s special traditions is the Mesarahaty or drummer. Each morning during the month of Ramadan, an hour or two before dawn, drummers tour the streets, hammering out a repetitive beat to wake people up to have their pre-dawn meal. This tradition dates back to the Ottoman era when people didn’t have alarm clocks to wake them for their pre-dawn meals, drummers would walk through the streets beating their drums.
If you are planning to visit Egypt in future make sure you come during the month of Ramadan so you can enjoy the special atmosphere it has in the country.
I have been with VLLC since the middle of 2016 and chose to learn Italian because my daughter's paternal grandparents are Italian and in January 2016 we went to Italy to visit them as my daughter hadn’t seen them in 8 years. This was my first time to meet them! None of us could speak each other’s language but this didn’t get in the way of having a great time together. We used any means possible to communicate and Google translate came in pretty handy. I came away from our visit feeling that if we only had known how to speak Italian, our experience would have been so much richer and this is what motivates me to learn Italian.
I keep myself motivated by imagining talking with our Italian family without using a translation app! I have visited Italy only the once in 2016, but learning Italian has inspired me to return again, and soon. When I was in Italy, my favourite thing to do was sitting in a café and listening to the conversations around me. I also love going to the local supermarket and exploring the food and products that are used every day. I found it was a really great way to quickly learn the names of things.
As well as speaking to the Tutors at VLLC, I am going to practice Italian with the Nonni and talk to them over the phone. My advice to anyone wanting to learn a language is "Don't let your memories of high school language lessons (French in my case), put you off learning a new language".
I've been working with VLLC for almost 3 years and I love sharing stories about Italy with my students. Food is one of the things I miss the most about my home country, as you can see from these photos... I especially love a traditional Easter tart called "pastiera" (or "pastone" in some parts of Puglia), made of wheat and ricotta cheese.
During my last visit to Calabria, I have also tried some homemade "morzello" ("morzeddhu" in dialect). It is a meat soup that people eat in a special bread called "pitta", which is like a wheel shaped focaccia. Morzello used to be a peasant dish. These days it is part of the traditional Christmas Eve supper.
April is Thai month at VLLC! You might wonder, why April? The answer is that April is the month of Songkran festival, which is the Thai New Year festival. The festival usually starts on 13rd of April every year. This usually continues for a week (or more!) depending on where you are; the middle parts of Thailand tend to finish later on around the 25th.
Many people know of Songkran as a water festival, where people come out of their homes to have water fights on the streets. We use containers (e.g. a garbage can and a bowl), to hurl water at people. This helps us to stay cool in the middle of April, when the weather is hottest, and most humid. Water fights also provide a good opportunity for family members to have fun as a family. When I was a child, I remember sitting and waiting for my cousins to arrive on the first day of Songkran, and wishing Songkran could last forever! Those were the days…
There is another aspect, a spiritual aspect, to the Songkran festival. The Thai people are mostly Buddhists, and they usually take this opportunity to make merit (do good deeds) at their local Wat (temple) in the early morning on the first day of Songkran. We believe in karma, and that making merit at the beginning of the year will bring luck and happiness. After we finish at the temple, we return home to be with our family, especially our elders. Then, traditionally, they bless us, and splash a Thai perfume on us, as a symbol of good fortune. After that, it is time to enjoy food, drink, and especially water fights, in order to celebrate the rest of Songkran; the best holiday in Thailand.
This is going to be the third consecutive Songkran that I will miss. If you have a chance to visit Thailand, please consider joining in and getting wet during Songkran. You will have fun, learn about Thai culture, make many friends, and bring back many fun memories. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Thai month at VLLC always reminds me of the good times I had in Thailand in Songkran month.
Barramee, VLLC Thai Tutor.
Here are some stories about VLLC' students and why they are learning a language